Rethinking the Hobby’s most iconic cards

If you came here to read about the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle or 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken, you came to the wrong place. I’m here to talk about true baseball card icons…these!

These are of course the position icons Topps used on their 1976 flagship set. Now that you see where the post is headed, I’m only going to get the ball rolling and look to you, the readers, to finish it for me.

Use the comments area either to fill a vacant slot or upgrade one of the existing slots. Together I believe we can assemble a team of the most iconic baseball cards ever, and I wouldn’t even be surprised if the entire collection could be had for only a few bucks.


I was reasonably happy with the 1988 Score Bob Boone card, but I suspect there’s something better out there. Terry Steinbach had a couple that were very close but facing the wrong way.

Right-handed pitcher

As in the 1973 set, Topps used different icons depending on whether a pitcher threw righty or lefty. Until a better match comes along, here is the iconic 1991 Topps Donn Pall card in the righty slot.

Left-Handed Pitcher

Hunting for the LHP icon proved harder than I thought and introduced me to just how much variation in follow-through there can be from pitcher to pitcher. As with all of these, feel free to upgrade.

First Base

No entry yet.

Second Base

Though not a second baseman, Walt Weiss comes close to the Topps icon with his 1991 Topps card. My guess is one of you will find something better though, and bonus points if your sliding baserunner is a match too.

An honorable mention from the vintage division is found on another shortshop card, the 1956 Topps Pee Wee Reese. (And you thought only his 1953 Bowman was iconic!)

Third Base

For some reason when I look at the third baseman icon I see George Brett in my head. He has a few near matches like this 1982 Topps In Action. Still, I suspect another player will make for an even closer match.

By the way, you may be wondering if these position icons were based on actual players or were more generic in nature. The issue seems to be settled by this image of Sal Bando, identified for us by a SABR Baseball Cards reader, upon which the Topps third baseman icon is evidently based.

Per the Getty Images site, the Bando photograph was taken on October 4, 1975, which would have been game one of the 1975 ALCS in Boston. If you happen to have a copy of the October 13, 1975, Sports Illustrated laying around you can even find the photograph on page 38.


No entry yet, but I’ll use this third baseman’s card as a placeholder.


No entry yet.

Designated hitter

Pinch-hitting for the DH until something better comes along is the 1992 Topps Jay Buhner. For some reason, even though the batter is a righty, this position icon always reminds me of Yaz.

Not satisfied?

If near matches weren’t what you had in mind, have I got the set for you. Let’s call it the Topps equivalent of participation trophies, a set where EVERY player is iconic: 2004 Topps!

P.S. I kind of like these!

Author: jasoncards

I mainly enjoy writing about baseball and baseball cards, but I've also dabbled in the sparsely populated Isaac Newton trading card humor genre. As of January 2019 I'm excited to be part of the SABR Baseball Cards blogging team, and as of May 2019 Co-Chair of the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee.

15 thoughts on “Rethinking the Hobby’s most iconic cards”

  1. The 2007 Upper Deck Andruw Jones is not too far off for the outfielders. His head is cocked the wrong direction though (I think it’s because the ball is in the wrong place to match up directly with the icon), kind of like Boone’s glove is a little off.

    First base will be tough, particularly if the goal is to match a right-handed throwing first baseman with the picture. The 1995 Best (or Classic/Best) Richie Sexson isn’t quite right because he’s receiving a pick-off throw; the 1991 Topps Wally Joyner is off because he’s left-handed.


      1. The 1977 Topps Rod Carew would work for first base if he was fielding a high throw. The 1995 Flair Mo Vaughn, or at least the action part of his card. Galarraga has a lot of cards of him fielding a throw, but they are never high throws (1995 Leaf Great Gloves is the best example I’ve seen) and the photo is usually as if it’s coming from across the diamond not home plate.

        For the RHP I was thinking a sidearm pitcher might be best because the follow through for an overhand pitcher is likely to be like the Donn Pall card and not quite as parallel to the ground as the icon. Dan Quisenberry is too tilted on his 1990 Topps Traded card. But sidearm and submariners might drop too low (Tekulve, Chad Bradford). Maybe a Pedro Martinez or David Cone type pitcher throwing one of their pitches from various arm angles.

        Jose Lind has a few cards with plays at second base but he always seems to be jumping over the baserunner with his legs wide open so none of them really match. Jay Bell’s 1992 Stadium Club is similar to the Walt Weiss (though I think the Weiss is better) – it’s almost as if the second base and shortstop icons should be reversed.


  2. I don’t like those position icons. That piece of card real estate would better be utilized with a team logo.


      1. I like the icons since they show up so rarely on card fronts (63F, 73T, 76T, 94CC, 04T, anything else?). Totally understand the desire to put a logo in that location instead but the more I look at cards the more I appreciate when sets do things that make them distinct from other sets.


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